Greetings in the name of our risen Lord!
This month, on April 21st, we look forward to the Blessed Day of Resurrection! Our celebration of Easter should be in full swing by then. Dyed eggs are pretty, candy is sweet but far more beautiful to the believer is the risen Savior, and singing his praises is infinitely sweeter.
The Church has realized this from its beginning. The Resurrection of the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, energized a frightened group of disciples into becoming a bold group of witnesses to his triumph over the grave. Meeting the risen Lord on the road to Damascus changed Saul the Persecutor into Paul the Apostle. And learning of him through Word and Holy Spirit has moved countless believers to write and sing joyfully.
The Passover was the defining moment in the life of the Covenant people Israel. It was God calling them out of slavery and into his family. Hundreds of years later, all of human history would reach its defining moment. God would call people out of slavery to sin and into the family of Jesus Christ.
The Passover observed at the time of Jesus looked back to the Angel of Death passing over the blood-stained doors of Israel. It remembered the Children of Israel passing over the Red Sea on dry land and the destruction of Pharaoh's army. It recalled a faithful God's promises to an often faithless people.
After Christ rose from the dead, God and his people of the New Covenant pointed to the fulfillment of the promise of the Passover. Christ passed over from life to death and on to life. Like Moses with his staff, so, even more, is Jesus and his cross. God used Moses to rescue his people from death on the shores of the sea. God used Jesus to rescue all people from eternal death in hell. Jesus leads the believers across death to life eternal in heaven. His Passover becomes ours. His resurrection is the guarantee that we too will rise to new life.
He rose, we respond. The hymn continues: "Our hearts be pure from evil That we may see aright The Lord in rays eternal Of resurrection light And, list'ning to His accents, May hear, so calm and plain, His own 'All hail!' and hearing, May raise the victor strain." The joy of knowing that Jesus is alive is translated into the joy of knowing that we are alive. We hear him cheering us on, telling us that we will make it safely to the other side.
When I was younger, Christmas was the big day. Not only did it mean presents, but identifying with God coming as a baby and living with people like me was easier to understand and relate to. But as I've gotten older, Easter has taken its rightful place as the defining moment in my life. I don't have to fear death, grave, and decay. I will rise to live with my Savior forever. All my sins, great and small, have been washed away and I am dressed as a king. I am treated as a child of God rather than the illegitimate offspring of Satan. The angel song at Christmas has been completed, the promise of peace has been delivered.
Now you and I can make the words of celebration our own. John of Damascus' hymn and others like it are our own victory cheers until we join with the heavenly host in the celebration that will know no end. "Now let the heav'ns be joyful, Let earth her song begin, Let all the world keep triumph And all that is therein. Let all things, seen and unseen, Their notes of gladness blend; For Christ the Lord hath risen - Our joy that hath no end."
"Joy to the world" is realized. It is your joy and mine. God grant you the full measure of that joy and the peace that surpasses understanding.
Your Servant in Christ,